At some point soon, the Raiders are probably going to leave Oakland and head for greener pastures where some idiot mayor and some idiot city council will throw way, way too much municipal money at an NFL stadium that will not benefit the city financially. This is how all sports work – when a team wants to make more money, they decide to use public funds to build a new stadium, limiting their own financial contributions as much as possible, but also sharing no profits or property tax revenue with the people who paid for their new house. About a year ago, I bravely declared that
I stand by that. They're turds.
This is still going on, of course. The last two major league parks, Minnesota's Target Field and Miami's Marlins Park, received $392 million and $508 million, respectively (though the public cost in Florida will end up being $2.6 billion because of debt service). The next one to open, the Braves' Dumb Suburb Stadium, is currently slated to receive $300 million in public money.
When the Giants built then-Pac Bell Park, they received $0 million in public money.
That's incredible. It's practically a miracle. Now, don't discount the many financial benefits the Giants get for being the Giants – back in 2005, a study estimated that police/fire/trash services, the cost of the land, and the property taxes the team doesn't have to pay add up to around $140 million. Additionally, the city's redevelopment agency contributed $15 million to move a transit station, which I should have mentioned in the previous paragraph, but saying it cost nothing was a lot punchier, so I did that instead. Ethics!
But those costs, while certainly not insignificant, are costs that every city pays for every team. The savings that San Francisco got from the Giants taking almost no public money are savings that just about no city enjoys. There was no city or county (in San Francisco, same thing!)-wide tax to pay for it. There were no municipal bonds on which the city will pay debt for decades, and there was no blackmail-type demand for the city to pay some massive amount of money or else the team would leave. Which brings us back to the Raiders.
Look at how disgusting the NFL is being in Oakland. The Raiders are demanding a new stadium on free land to stay in Oakland; the Raiders want $500 million in public subsidies; the Raiders want a huge parking lot; the Raiders want every player to have his own personal city-owned pony, and for the pony to be fed with city money, and for elaborate new pony stables to be built. If they don't get all that, they'll move back to LA, unless someone doesn't let them, in which case they'll just stay in Oakland and sulk.
It's not just the Raiders, of course; these are just the things that sports teams feel entitled to demand. You might have heard about the ridiculous rip-off stadium deal that sent the Rams to St Louis 20 years ago (and is responsible for sending them back to LA now), but this happens in baseball too. The Yankees – the Yankees – got more than a billion dollars in cash and subsidies for their stadium. For a more direct comparison with AT&T Park, the baseball stadiums finished in 1999 and 2000 received $393 million (Seattle), $145 million (Detroit) , and $180 million (Houston) in direct funds. That doesn't even count those ancillary services that I mentioned above. This is a lot of money, and San Francisco residents didn't have to pay it to keep their team.
The Giants are not perfect, and their stadium is not free. But this is the ownership group that prevented the team from moving to Tampa over a stadium-related hissy fit, and they showed a commitment to giving San Francisco the best deal that a sports team has given a city in decades. That doesn't necessarily make it a good deal, and it doesn't make them good people. But it does mean Giants fans can point to almost everyone else and say "At least we don't root for them."